Expanding Repertoire

Chamber Music has also formed an important part of his output. An octet was commissioned by the mixed ensemble Liquid Architecture for the Chelsea Schubert Festival in 2007 and the Steinberg Duo commissioned a second Violin Sonata in 2011. A disc featuring both the violin sonatas was recorded by the Steinberg Duo at the Banff Centre in Canada in January 2012 for the Nimbus Alliance label where they also gave both works their Canadian premiere. “Four Shropshire Songs” for mezzo-soprano, clarinet, and string quartet were premiered at the 2006 Guildford Festival and the Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet (1969) was performed during at the same Festival in 2005 as well as performances as far afield as Grove Park in London and Clun in Shropshire.

Professional Appointments

In 2015 Sawyers was appointed the “John McCabe Composer-in-Association” for the English Symphony Orchestra, a position he held until 2018, when he was named the ESO’s Composer Laureate.  His association with the ESO has produced several acclaimed recordings of new works including his Third Symphony, Songs of Loss and Regret, Fanfare, a symphonic poem The Valley of VisionConcerto for Trumpet Timpani and Strings, Violin Concerto, and Elegiac Rhapsody in Memory of John McCabe for Trumpet and Strings. The Nimbus Alliance Recording of his Third Symphony, Songs of Loss and Regret and Fanfare was a Gramophone Critics’ Choice Best of 2017 winner, while the recording of his concertos for violin and trumpet alongside The Valley of Vision led BBC Music Magazine to exclaim “Sawyers’ thrilling orchestral music truly captivates.”

Born in London in 1951, Philip Sawyers studied at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, violin with Colin Sauer, and composition with Helen Glatz (a pupil of Vaughan Williams and Bartok). Whilst at the Guildhall School of Music in London, he studied violin with Joan Spencer and Max Rostal, and received encouragement for his compositions from Buxton Orr, Patric Standford and Edmund Rubbra.

Working Musician

In 1973, Sawyers joined the Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden. During this period he also freelanced with other orchestras and chamber groups including the London Symphony Orchestra, the English National Opera Orchestra and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, some West End theatre orchestras and in film, pop, and light music sessions leaving very little time for composition. Time was also taken up with teaching and coaching, principally as a violin coach for the Kent County Youth Orchestra, and as visiting teacher at various educational establishments.

In 1997, he decided to opt for a quieter life, left the ROH, and undertook a year of postgraduate study at Goldsmith’s College, University of London. Alongside composing, Sawyers now works as a freelance violinist, teacher and adjudicator having spent 12 years as an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music from 2001-2013.